Cambria Community Services District will have to pay more than $226,000 in penalties due to three sewage spills dating to three years ago, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board announced Tuesday.
The spills on Jan. 2, Oct. 6 and Dec. 17, all in 2011, allowed an estimated 330,000 gallons of untreated sewage to escape.
The first and most extensive spill of 256,000 gallons was attributed to unusual flows of rainwater from a storm into the wastewater system, compounded by a pump failure, resulting in a spill into Santa Rosa Creek and, ultimately, the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 12 inches of rain had fallen in 17 days prior to the spill.
The second spill of about 41,000 gallons over a period of about two weeks in the Sheffield Street and Oakhurst Drive area was caused by a root blocking an 8-inch pipe.
The third spill of about 33,000 gallons was caused by a power outage and the failure of a switch that should have turned on a power generator.
Services district directors voted unanimously in closed session on Dec. 19 to accept the settlement, district board President Jim Bahringer said. He signed the agreement on Jan. 6, and the water board representative signed it Monday.
“We … appreciate the district’s willingness to accept responsibility and make needed improvements to its infrastructure,” water board member Michael Thomas said in a statement.
Half of the penalty will go to the state Cleanup and Abatement Fund. The district can spend the other half on studies on potential improvements to its wastewater treatment facility, including production of recycled water.
“The wastewater plan over the next decade is going to need changes,” Bahringer said. “A lot has been done over the last three years to help mitigate that kind of problem, and that was well taken during the negotiations.”
The district’s good faith efforts resulted in a penalty “far less than otherwise would have been predicted,” Bahringer said.
The settlement is available online at http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/centralcoast/water_issues/programs/enforcement/index.shtml. The public has the opportunity to comment through Feb. 12.